Every act of aloha counts. Click here to DONATE to the MAUI RELIEF Fund.            

Bills: Tax Breaks For Teachers And Job Growth

Sen. Michelle Kidani

Jobs can get our economy moving again

The Legislature is now past the halfway mark in the 60-day session calendar, and Senate and House members remain focused on the need to keep our economic momentum on track toward recovery.

While visitor numbers look good for our service workers, construction activity has lagged. With unemployment still at unacceptably high levels, the Senate has moved aggressively to pass the Invest in Hawaii Act of 2012, which we expect will accomplish two things fix our facilities, and put people back to work.

The bill passed with bipartisan support of all senators and with the full backing of the administration. It would authorize funding in the amount of $500,000,000 from the sale of bonds to pay for literally hundreds of repair and maintenance projects at state facilities.

These projects have been waiting for funding at virtually every public school, our public libraries, all of our UH campuses, at public health centers including our state hospital system, at parks, small boat harbors and many, many more public facilities. The work will be under way in all of our communities.

All projects many of them ready to go almost immediately once money is released have the potential to create as many as 4,000 to 6,000 direct and indirect jobs. We’ve included provisions in the bill to require a focus on energy efficiency and sustainability, and to give a high priority to projects that remedy health and safety issues. We’ve streamlined the contract bid process to move projects from concept to construction as quickly as possible.

For our workers, who have been sidelined for too long by a slumping economy, this is good news for the months and years ahead. We all know that by putting people back to work, and putting discretionary dollars back in their purses, all of us benefit. That’s discretionary income that they can spend in our markets, buying products in our stores, enjoying an occasional “little extra” that adds to our quality of life and that’s good for everyone.

Teachers deserve a tax break

We’ve all heard stories over the years about school teachers who spend money out of their own pockets to supplement classroom materials. I personally know many teachers who do this, and it’s a real tribute to their commitment to their students and schools.

Not everyone knows, however, that for the past few years, teachers had been able to claim a tax deduction for some of those expenses on their federal and state returns. That deduction allowance expired at the end of 2011. But, of course, we know teachers will continue to spend out-of-pocket, and so the Legislature is looking at my bill SB 2484 to reinstate a tax break.

In its current form, the proposed measure would allow teachers to take a tax credit of up to $500 for approved expenses a direct credit on the amount of taxes they owe at the end of the year. It’s a way to demonstrate to teachers that we value their dedication to their students, that we acknowledge their personal investments in classroom resources from their own salaries, and that puts dollars back in teachers’ pockets so their own families benefit as well.

The Senate approved SB 2484 earlier this month and sent it on to the House for consideration.

If you have comments or questions about bills at the Legislature, or about a community need you think I may be able to help with, please contact my office: telephone 586-7100; email: senkidani@capitol.hawaii.gov; or stop by at the State Capitol Room 228.